Covid-19 has infected more than 324M people and killed over 5.5M worldwide. Here are some of the latest coronavirus-related developments:

Thousands of people protested against government plans to introduce mandatory Covid-19 vaccinations for all next month.
Thousands of people protested against government plans to introduce mandatory Covid-19 vaccinations for all next month. (AA)

Saturday, January 15, 2022

Iran reports first Omicron deaths

Iran's health ministry reported the country's first three deaths from the highly contagious Omicron coronavirus variant.

"The number of patients with Omicron in the country has reached 1,162 and ... one death has been reported due to Omicron in each of the cities of Tabriz, Yazd and Shahrekord, and one critically ill patient is hospitalised in Ahvaz," ministry spokesman Mohammad Hashemi told state broadcaster IRIB.

Iran this week lifted restrictions on land travel to and from neighbouring countries and some European states but maintained a ban on arrivals from Britain, France and eight countries in Southern Africa over Omicron fears, Iranian media reported.

Thousands protest in Vienna 

Thousands of people took to the streets of Austria's capital to protest against government plans to introduce mandatory Covid-19 vaccinations for all next month.

"The government must go!" crowds chanted at one rally in central Vienna in what has become a routine Saturday event.

Parliament is scheduled to vote next week on the issue, which has polarised the country as coronavirus cases surge.

In November, the government announced a fourth national lockdown and said it would make vaccinations compulsory for all Austrians, the first European Union country to do so.

Italy adds over 300 fatalities

Italy has reported 180,426 Covid-19 related cases, down from 186,253 a day before, while the number of deaths fell to 308 from 360.

The country registered 140,856 deaths linked to Covid-19 since its outbreak emerged in February 2020, the second-highest toll in Europe after Britain and the ninth highest in the world. 

The country has reported 8.55 million cases to date.

India extends ban on public events

India's election commission extended its ban on political rallies and roadshows in five states on Saturday due to rising Covid-19 cases in the country.

The ban, which runs to January 22, excludes indoor political party events of less than 300 people, or at 50 percent of a venue's capacity, the watchdog said in a statement.

India reported 268,833 new coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours, taking its total tally to 36.84 million, according to data from the federal health ministry. 

Deaths from Covid-19 rose by 402 to 485,752.

Indonesia highest number of cases in three months

Indonesia reported 1,054 new cases, the highest daily increase in three months, as the government braces for a new wave of coronavirus infections driven by the spread of the Omicron variant.

The world's fourth most populous country grappled with a devastating second wave of infections in July, driven by the spread of the Delta variant.

Daily case numbers dropped to around 200 by December, before rising this month amid reports of local transmission of the Omicron variant.

UK seven-day infections down 33 percent on week

The has UK reported 81,713 new cases of Covid-19, leaving the seven-day tally down by nearly 33 percent on the previous week.

It reported 287 deaths of people who had tested positive for the disease within the previous 28 days. 

The seven-day total for deaths was up 45 percent on the week before, following a record spike in infections in recent weeks.

Okinawa, home to US military bases, logs record Covid cases

Japan's southern prefecture of Okinawa has reported record daily numbers of Covid-19 cases fuelled by the spread of the highly transmissible Omicron variant.

Okinawa, which hosts 70 percent of US military facilities in Japan, said it recorded 1,829 new coronavirus cases.

The governor of the prefecture, Denny Tamaki, previously said he was "furious" about what he called inadequate infection controls at US bases that allowed the variant to spread to the public.

Japan has since stepped up coronavirus restrictions in three regions that host US military facilities, which have also announced stricter infection controls.

Though Japan halted the entry of almost all foreign travellers into the country last November, the US military moves staff in and out of the country under a separate testing and quarantine regime.

Australia nears Omicron peak as daily infections hover around records

Australia has likely neared the peak of its Omicron wave, but warned daily infections will linger near record levels for "the next few weeks" after more than 100,000 cases were reported for a fourth straight day.

Having limited the spread of the coronavirus through tough restrictions earlier in the pandemic, Australia is now suffering record caseloads from the Omicron variant.

Most parts of the country have shifted to a strategy of living with the virus as they reached higher vaccination rates.

More than 1.2 million infections have been recorded this year, compared with 200,000 for 2020 and 2021 combined.

Philippines confirms community transmission of Omicron, cases hit record

The Philippine health ministry confirmed the local spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant around Manila as infections hit a record high for a third straight day.

"We are seeing community transmission of the Omicron variant in the capital region," Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire told a public briefing.

The community transmission of the Omicron variant is characterised by a steep rise in cases, Vergeire said, adding that infections may peak from the end of this month to mid-February.

The ministry reported 39,004 new Covid-19 infections, while active cases also hit a record, at 280,813.

With more than 3.16 million cases and nearly 53,000 deaths, the Philippines has the highest Covid-19 infections and casualties in Southeast Asia after Indonesia.

Brazil registers 112,286 cases, 251 deaths

Brazil has reported 112,286 new cases of coronavirus in the past 24 hours and 251 Covid-19 deaths.

The country has now registered 22,927,203 cases since the pandemic began nearly two years ago, while the official death toll has risen to 620,796, according to the health ministry.

The current number of new cases is the highest since June 23 last year in regular records and represents a huge leap from the same day of the week last year, when 63,292 cases were recorded.

Brazil has the third highest number of deaths from Covid-19, behind the United States and Russia, and the third most confirmed cases, after the United States and India.

Pakistan sees highest single-day tally since September

 In an indication of a growing fifth wave of the coronavirus pandemic, Pakistan reported over 4,000 new infections over the past day, the highest single-day tally since September last year.

The country registered 4,286 new infections in the last 24 hours, raising the total number of cases to over 1.13 million since March 2020, according to the health ministry.

Another four people died due to Covid-19, pushing the death toll to 29,003.

A bulk of the cases have been reported by the southern Sindh province, mainly Karachi, the country's largest city and the commercial capital.

Google mandates tests for entering its US offices

Alphabet Inc's Google is temporarily mandating weekly Covid-19 tests for any person entering Google offices or facilities in the United States, the tech giant said.

"To help prevent the further spread of Covid-19 during this period of heightened risk, we’re implementing new temporary health and safety measures for anyone accessing our sites in the US," a Google spokesperson said.

Google provides free at-home and in-person testing options to its employees, their dependants and household members.

Dutch to ease restrictions but bars will remain shut

The Netherlands will relax some of the toughest Covid restrictions in Europe after hospitalisations dropped despite a surge in Omicron variant cases, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said.

Shops, gyms, hairdressers, sports clubs will be allowed to do business until 5 pm daily, nearly a month after they were shut down over the Christmas and New Year period.

But bars, restaurants, cafes and cultural locations will however remain closed until at least January 25, Rutte told the first press conference since a new government was sworn in earlier this week.

Brazil vaccinating children despite president's objection

Brazil began vaccinating children aged five to 11 against Covid-19 after the move was approved, despite objections from President Jair Bolsonaro.

Davi Seremramiwe Xavante, an Indigenous eight-year-old boy, was the first child to be vaccinated during an official ceremony at a Sao Paulo hospital, with the state governor Joao Doria in attendance.

The first Covid vaccine dose administered in Brazil was also in Sao Paulo, in January 2021.

The new age group was approved for vaccination by Anvisa health authorities a month ago.

More than 20 million children are eligible for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, as long as they have parental consent.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies